Whether it’s Artbikes, mountain bikes or road bikes you’re into, Hobart has rides for you, finds Simon Vincett.
The coolest way to get around the sights of Hobart is to borrow an Artbike for the weekend. These stylish Vanmoof bikes come fully-appointed with built-in lights and mudguards, and included in the hire fee are free, sanitised helmets, bike locks and a touring map.
An initiative of Arts Tasmania, the bikes are yours to take wherever you like but are meant to enable culture vultures to easily access Hobart’s arts precincts and galleries. The city of Hobart has responded by developing Artbike hubs in six locations with quirky cut-out figures as unique bike parking rails. The rails are permanent structures for anyone to use but they are situated at locations pointed out on the Artbike map as galleries to visit. These include the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Salamanca Place and other galleries close by and further out. Getting easily to these outlying galleries is where the Artbikes really come into their own.
Important to note is that Artbikes can’t be booked, they are offered on a first in, first served basis. Call (03) 6165 6666 to check availability. They are picked up from Arts Tasmania, 146 Elizabeth Street. It’s $44 for the weekend and $22 for overnight.
The furthest gallery from downtown Hobart—but one high on most people’s agendas to visit—is MONA, the private Museum of Old and New Art. Fortunately there’s a high-quality bike path that reaches it—the Intercity Cycleway. This 15km off-road path is a vital bike commuting artery connecting the northern suburbs all the way from Claremont to the Hobart CBD. Fortunately it goes right past the entrance to MONA (12km from Hobart). MONA offers bikes for hire as well, available from the Brook St ferry terminal at Franklin Wharf or at MONA itself. These are $20 per person.
For a ride in nature, an under-appreciated gem of a ride in Hobart is the Nieka Pipeline Track. Starting from a carpark at Fern Tree, a tiny locality halfway up the Mt Wellington Pinnacle Road, this dirt track contours in an out of cool green gullies and across the bushy slopes, with occasional views but always the airy sense of being on the side of a mountain. It ends after 6km at the even tinier locality of Nieka before becoming a short walking track leading to a series of small waterfalls. It’s only when you start to ride back you’ll realise that it was slightly uphill on the way there and now you’ve got the benefit of gravity to make the return easier. With such a gentle gradient, this is an ideal ride for families and is a very accessible ride for anyone.
The ultimate Mt Wellington experience, however, is the panoramic view from the summit followed by a free-wheeling descent. There’s actually a way to enjoy just these delights without the effort of riding up the mountain yourself: book a spot on the Mt Wellington Descent tour group. You’re provided with a bike, all you have to do is book and turn up for the bus.
First of all you’re whisked up to the summit to soak up the view, which takes some soaking because it’s nothing less than of all Hobart, the long sweep of the Derwent river, the off-shore wilds of Bruny Island and the distant Tasman peninsula and the convict settlement of Port Arthur. You’re then fitted with a bike and helmet and start down the main summit road on your guided descent.
With several stops for photos and to regroup, the route turns off the main road for some quieter roads when possible. You can also choose an off-road section with winding, twisting ups and downs if you’re up for a bit more adventure, and then everyone regroups near the Cascade Brewery. The tour finishes back at the Hobart waterfront after a two and a half hour experience.
For road riders, the greatest appeal of Mt Wellington is probably the challenge of climbing it. In fact the mountain hosts an event every March billed as Australia’s toughest time trail, the Mt Wellington Challenge, so that’s a great time of year to visit and test your mettle.
The route shown using Murray and Macquarie streets and Strickland Avenue carries the least traffic and delivers riders back to the cafes of Franklin Wharf at the Hobart waterfront.
For a road training circuit, Hobart’s Sandy Bay Road bike lanes stretch 10km from downtown to Taroona, with a steady climb for the last half. Past Taroona the lanes disappear and the road narrows, twists and turns, although the road shoulder has been widened and sealed in parts and is much improved compared with this time last year.
Hobart is one of the most scenic, best appointed and most convenient destinations in Australia for mountain biking, all of which are permanently open and free access.
The jewel in the crown is the 13km North–South Track. Again, the venue is Mt Wellington, with access from The Springs car park off the Pinnacle Road. From here the track contours north cross-country through lush bush, with rock bridges across tiny cascading creeks, optional jumps and log rides, and a vast boulder field in the middle, where the rocks of the track have been securely fixed in place. With an experience this wild, it’s hard to believe you’re only about 20km from downtown.
The North–South Track finishes at another premier mountain biking venue, Glenorchy MTB Park. This park, designed by Glen Jacobs, offers cross-country, dirt jumps, downhill, mountain cross and north shore (elevated connecting bridges and logs) riding options.
In case that doesn’t satisfy you, there’s also Clarence MTB Park on the other side of the city. It offers the widest variety of riding, including dirt jumps, cross-country, downhill, mountain cross, dual slalom and a pump track.
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